All of Canada suffers under systemic racism except for Quebec. At least, that appears to be the narrative of today.
During the English-language Leaders debate held on Sept. 9, moderator Shachi Kurl asked each leader a number of direct questions. The questions were clearly modelled to poke into territory that each leader would rather not address.
Trudeau was asked to justify why he called the election during a pandemic and Singh was asked if his platform wasn’t realistic. The questions evoked response and made the debate more interesting as leaders were put on the spot. Kurl apparently crossed the line, however, when she asked Bloc Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet about Quebec’s controversial Bill 21.
In a rare act of unity, the leaders of the Liberals, the CPC, and the NDP are demanding an apology from Shari Kurl and from the consortium of media broadcasters who organized the debate. They are appalled that the moderator framed Bill 21 as a discriminatory bill when presenting the question to Blanchet.
Bill 21 was imposed by the Quebec legislature in 2019. The bill prohibits the display of religious symbols of any kind by civil servants while on the job. School principals, police officers, and judges, for example, are prohibited from wearing items such as turbans, hijabs, and kippahs while working.
Bill 21 has been challenged in court and English schools won an exemption from the bill. The province is appealing that ruling.
Justice Marc-André Blanchard of the Quebec Superior Court ruled that Bill 21 violates the basic rights of religious minorities in the province, but those violations are permissible because of the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause.
Bill 21 is the very embodiment of systemic racism. It disproportionately impacts religious minorities who are most often people of colour. While the courts will say this, apparently debate moderators can’t.
The hypocrisy and cowardice being displayed by party leaders on this issue are breathtaking. Cowardice, in that they are clearly terrified of offending the province of Quebec even on an issue as clear-cut as this. Hypocrisy, in that they all embrace the ongoing notion that Canada as a whole is apparently awash in systemic racism but refuse to condemn Quebec’s brazen display of that very thing.
Stockwell Day was chased from the public eye and had to resign multiple senior positions in companies for daring to say, “Canada is not a racist country and most Canadians are not racist. And our system, that always needs to be improved, is not systemically racist,” while on a CBC panel in 2020.
Despite his repeated apologies, Day was effectively cancelled by the woke mob for daring to deny Canadian racism.
While Canada as a whole has no policy as odious or clearly discriminatory as Quebec’s Bill 21, it is apparently unacceptable for any public figure to claim that the nation is not racist. Meanwhile, even questioning Quebec’s legislation has led to a gross display of faux-outrage from vote pandering party leaders.
Quebec and Quebecers were never called racists during the debates either directly or implicitly. What was questioned was the legislation. If we can’t question legislation in an election debate, we are in some serious trouble as a nation. Where and when will somebody be able to speak on behalf of Quebec’s minorities?
Hopefully, Shachi Kurl and the consortium of media broadcasters refuse to back down and offer apologies. Not only have they done nothing wrong, but it would set a terrible precedent. Leader’s debates can be dull and inconclusive as it is. How terrible would they be if moderators had to take the political interests of the candidates into account before asking questions?
Let’s face it, every party leader knows fully well that Bill 21 is an exercise in blatant, legislative bigotry. These leaders have prioritized their electoral hopes in Quebec over the needs of minorities impacted by Quebec’s discriminatory bill.
To his credit, Trudeau has not ruled out a federal court challenge against Bill 21. It’s questionable how such a challenge could ever come about if nobody is allowed to talk critically about the bill, however.
If indeed there are issues of systemic racism to be addressed in Canada, we need an honest conversation on it. Punishing media members who dare question examples of real discrimination hinders any progress towards solutions.
Canada doesn’t have a problem with systemic racism as much as it has a problem with entrenched political hypocrisy.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.